Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Apple Recipe: A

The Apple Recipe is a set of five principles that are the keys to great teaching. Whether you are a teacher in the classroom or in the home, these five concepts will make learning come alive for your students.

Where did they come from? Twenty years of teaching and helping others teach. Over and over again, I saw that these were the qualities of great teaching.

Each day this week, I will unwrap a principle for you. Share your thoughts. Ask me questions. This is your place to ponder and to reflect.

Each principle will be an action word represented by a letter in the word APPLE. This will make them easier to remember and keep the focus properly on the actions of the teacher. Why? Because great curriculum, understanding, and vision are helpful, but what you choose to do, the habits you build, make the biggest difference for your students.

The first principle is:

Ask: Yes, that's right! From the very beginning, and all the way through to high school graduation, ask for advice, insight, information, and wisdom. Don't do this alone. The best teachers build a life-long habit of teaching themselves and gathering fresh ideas and insights.

There is a wealth of help of all kinds available for the careful researcher. While you do need to use common sense -- everything being offered isn't truly helpful -- there are many well-qualified people who have attained a degree of expertise or experience that they are happy to share with you. These people can be found online or in your community -- an old school teacher, a college professor, a pharmacist, or your neighbor! Sometimes, one of these wonderful individuals has even tutored one of my kids on a subject that was simply beyond me. In doing this, you create opportunities for your students to do far more than they could otherwise and to benefit from more wisdom that you have.

Be on the lookout, too, for other teachers who are doing a great job. Ask if they would mind meeting with you to answer your questions. Watch how they do what they do so well. Then show your appreciation by serving them in some way, sending them a note, or letting them know you care when they have a need. Often, these individuals help others routinely, sacrificing precious spare time and receiving very little in return for it. Make sure that their relationship with you is a bright spot in their lives.

You can choose how often and by what methods you learn. If you are more relational, then you will want to maximize your strength in building mentoring relationships and networking with other teachers. If you enjoy browsing online, then you will want to set aside a little bit of time, perhaps on some weekends, for cruising the net. If you are a book lover, then you will want to purchase a few books every year to read and reflect upon. Some people do best with a weekly hour set aside for learning, some do better with a spontaneous approach, and some (like me) really benefit from setting aside a half-day over a weekend once a month.

You'll benefit tremendously from making learning an ongoing event. And you will enjoy enormous dividends from your regular investment when you need to solve problems in your classroom or shop for new curriculum or plan next year. Not only will you know more and have more options to choose from, but you will have gained a larger perspective.

One of the most important, but most hidden, factors in great teaching is the presence of perspective. That doesn't happen in a day. It comes through the habit of being a lifelong learner.


What are your thoughts on this?


  1. The most important people to ask are the kids you're teaching. My kids have grown up hearing me ask 'What do you think about that?' on a daily basis on every topic under the sun. They have learned to do their own research, express themselves well, listen to others and think critically. They also know that what they think matters, not just what the 'experts' told them. They also know how they learn best, we usually just need to ask them.

  2. Sandy --

    You are right. It's so important to ask our kids. That's a very thoughtful response to my post today. In fact, one of the principles in the Apple Recipe will address this directly!

    Of course, we get to pick the people we consider to be "experts." We can tell if they will have helpful information for us if they have a similar philosophy and perspective, AND if they are doing the kind of job we hope to do.

    Often, asking my kids what worked and what they liked was a good guide to what worked best for them. But sometimes, my kids did not know what they needed, even when I asked them. They just knew that what we were doing wasn't quite working. And sometimes, there were ideas and options that none of us had even considered, which a wise and experienced teacher shared with us.


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